Racial slur in residence hall prompts strong student reaction

Editor’s Note: Loquitur realizes the use of the ethnic slur in the story is offensive. However, Loquitur is using it to convey the severity of the incident and believes the use of the word is crucial to a full understanding of this news event.

Photos: Cabrini-Stands-with-Sennia

Video by Hope Daluisio

After all the Welcome to College signs just a few weeks ago, freshmen do not expect to see the racial slur, “Go away nigger,” scrawled on the door of their dorm room.

This is what happened to Sennia Vann, a freshman biology major at Cabrini University, on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.

Permanent marker slur amid Halloween decorations

After going out to dinner for her sister’s birthday, Vann returned to Cabrini, While she initially planned on spending her night studying for her upcoming biology and Spanish exams, seeing an unexpected note on her door led her evening to play out much differently.

Vann approached the door to her dorm room in East Residence Hall around 11 p.m. and saw the offensive words, written in black permanent marker, right before her eyes.

“Most of the Halloween decorations on my door are black, so I did not notice it at first,” Vann said. However, when she processed what was happening, she immediately sprang into action. Feeling very heated, Vann first contacted her older sister, Twanna, about the situation.

Twanna contacted Cabrini University’s Public Safety officers, then wrote a post on Facebook about the situation. “So my younger sister attends Cabrini College and this is what someone decided to write on her room door,” Twanna wrote, with a photo that Vann sent her of her door. “She is rooming with two other girls and she is the only African American in her room. This is a major issue.” In 24 hours, the post was shared over 100 times.

After getting off the phone with her sister, Vann sought out her residence assistant, Eddie. After finding that Eddie was not in his room, Vann was helped by Ariel, a Cabrini University graduate assistant. To Vann’s dismay, there were eight people outside of her door when she returned back to it. While still trying to process everything that was occurring, Vann made numerous statements about the situation for these sources.

The rest of her night consisted of a trip to the police station to report and discuss the situation, and returning back to her home in West Philadelphia that evening. Vann did not come back to Cabrini’s campus until 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17.

While Vann slept on the evening of Sept. 16, dozens of people had her on their minds and in their hearts. This included 49 year old Tara Ledwell, a Philadelphia resident who has a nephew who currently attends Cabrini University.

“It is sad to hear that people don’t realize we are all the same made in God’s image, no matter what color you are,” she commented on Twanna’s Facebook post.

Nina Broadnax, the mother of two current students at Cabrini University, also commented on the situation. “I have two children attending the university and the school better deal with this IMMEDIATELY,” she said.

Alumni also did not shy away from sharing their thoughts and said they are keeping Vann in their prayers.

“I attended Cabrini and graduated with my masters from there,” “Ism’il Ar-Rahman Lamarr said. “However I can help, let me know! This is disgusting!”

Amie Kneedler-Roetz, another Cabrini University graduate student, also commented on the situation. “This is ridiculous! I’m so sorry that this happened,” she said. “Cabrini needs to end this nonsense asap!” I really hope they do something about this!”

Cabrini University’s president, Donald Taylor, dealt with the situation publicly on Sunday. .

On Sunday, Sept. 17, Taylor sent an email out to the entire Cabrini campus community sharing his awareness of the racist comment.

“The comment was hateful and completely goes against who we are as an institution and as a diverse community,” Taylor said.

DT, as the university president is known throughout the campus, also encouraged any students who are struggling with the incident or feeling unsafe to reach out to anyone on the staff or faculty.

“You are not alone, and we stand with all our students against hate and fear mongering,” he said.

In addition to Taylor, outside news media also took note off campus of the occurrence. This began with Chuck McDade, the assignment editor for Channel 6 Action News, and followed with NBC 10, CBS and more. ABC’s story and news package can be seen here, and NBC’s can be seen here.

Cabrini Students Welcome Vann Home

Photo by Hope Daluisio

As of 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17, Vann had yet to receive a personal phone call or e-mail about the situation from a Cabrini administrator. However, a number of students at Cabrini University were already on her side.

As Vann approached her room on Sunday evening, she was welcomed by a group of students from Cabrini’s Activities and Programming Board, Black Student Union, Pura Vida, Student Engagement and Leadership Office, “Impact” Living and Learning community, and more.

These students decorated the entire hallway surrounding Vann’s door with streamers, balloons and dozens of posters with positive quotes and phrases. Vann went from being told to “Go away,” to being reassured that she was welcomed, beautiful and loved by the entire Cabrini community.

“We’re here for you,” “We care about you,” and “We love you,” were just some of the kind sentiments  

Cabrini students said to Vann as she walked down the hallway, approaching the door to her dorm room once again. Overwhelmed by the change of attitude during the 24 hours she experienced, Vann shed a few tears and personally hugged and thanked every student who decorated her hallway for her. 
“This made me feel so warm and fuzzy,” Vann shared.

Upon entering her room, Vann was then given a plate of cookies and an additional “Certificate of Bravery.” The certificate was made by Tamera Samuel with junior Anna Russo, the leader of Cabrini’s “Impact” Living and Learning Community, that Vann is a member of, bringing people together in support. It was presented to Vann and read, “In honor of your courage to stand tall and be proud of who you are. You are welcome here and you are loved.”

“It’s really disheartening to see something like this happen, but I’m so proud of Sennia and how she handled the whole situation,” Russo commented. “She acted very dignified, and I’m also proud of how the community is coming together to overcome this.”

As a result of this situation, Vann hopes that similar situations will cease to occur, or be handled on a more personal level from the start.

“My night was all about the logistics – just getting my statements down and getting off campus. Nobody really stopped to ask me how I was feeling, if I was alright, or if I felt safe,” Vann said.

Cabrini facilities were able to remove the racial slur off of her door, Vann still remembers exactly where the comment was written. Vann now feels that, every time she looks at her door, she will always be reminded of this situation.

As of the evening of Sept. 17, Cabrini’s Dean of Students Office and the Office of Public Safety are still continuing to investigate this matter. On behalf of the University, Taylor said, “We will do everything we can to identify the individual(s) responsible.”

Correction: The certificate was made by Tamara Samuel, with Anna Russo gathering everyone together. Loquitur has changed the story.

2 Responses to Racial slur in residence hall prompts strong student reaction

  1. joan Stevens aka grandmom September 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    I’m sennia vann grandmother. Im asking cabrini to refund my granddaughters tution 100 per cent and asking the naacp to give her a scholarship to an historically black college. Her safety is paramount to me. I cannot give my baby enough love and support at this time. I love you nene

  2. Denise Marcinko September 18, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

    My heart aches & breaks in two for what has happened to this beautiful young girl !! As I dropped my son off on campus the weekend of the 26th of August , I noticed the new signs around campus saying ” HATE HAS NO HOME HERE ” !!I thought to myself these are awesome !! I truly do believe Cabrini is a great University and has such a great diverse group of young men & women who all stand together against this sort of hatred !! I watched as my son went through high school having comments & nasty things said to him while dating a young Chinese girl , my son is white !! I pray everyday things will get better in this society we all live in and deal with the acts of disgraceful ways we treat each other because of our skin color or where we come from !! May God Bless you Sennia and give you strength to stay strong and stand tall always for yourself and remember that you are beautiful young women who did not deserve to be targeted by some mere ignorance of a single individual or small group of people !!